Acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at USAID/Jamaica Global Development Alliance Signing Ceremony

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Good morning, everyone. It’s a pleasure to speak with you all today.

The United States and the Caribbean are a community, with many shared values and interests. What affects one of us affects all of us — we are neighbors, partners, and friends.

Growing up in Miami, which is a hodgepodge of so many people and cultures from the Caribbean, I had many classmates, neighbors, and friends who were just like me. I put myself through college and worked for a cruise line where I had the opportunity to visit every major port in the Caribbean. In many ways, I consider myself a child of the Caribbean.

And one of the key lessons I’ve taken from my upbringing is that the United States and the Caribbean have deep, longstanding ties. Our futures are interwoven, and we make each other better. We are truly neighbors, partners, and friends.

USAID has a long record of fruitful collaboration with the people of the Caribbean, in order to build prosperity, support vibrant communities, and advance energy resilience in the region. Today’s signing ceremony marks a particularly important milestone in our long history of cooperation, as this agreement expands and deepens the promise of renewable energy in Jamaica for the long term.

We partner with Caribbean nations to bolster the energy sector, especially given its critical importance to everyday life. And we’re also delivering major new programs to support disaster resilience in the region.

Although I am joining you virtually today, I wish I could be there in person to celebrate the signing of this agreement.

Back in 2019, I visited Jamaica and had the opportunity to participate in a signing ceremony for a loan guarantee with Jamaica’s National Commercial Bank, facilitated by USAID’s Development Credit Authority. The loan guarantee aims to encourage more lending to support investments in small and medium businesses, particularly in the energy sector.

During that same visit, I initiated a new energy forum: the Public-Private Alliance for Energy Resilience. Both the public-private alliance and the new program that we’re recognizing today are critical to Jamaica’s future. They are part of our efforts to increase the diversity of Jamaica’s energy, to strengthen the resilience of energy systems and infrastructure, and to decrease vulnerability to natural disasters.

I also had fruitful discussions with the private sector about disaster resilience and expanding engagement in Jamaica’s energy sector, because governments alone cannot carry out all the changes that are needed. More often than not, it is the private sector that owns and operates the infrastructure. Private sector engagement and contributions to energy resilience are vital.

Today’s signing ceremony is a capstone for our collective efforts to spur crucial renewable energy projects, through an extensive alliance with Jamaican and international organizations. Together, we will identify the policy changes needed to enhance the penetration of renewable energy in the island’s grid, and we will develop new financing tools for this precise effort.

This $4 million, three-year initiative includes a pilot project on solar power and battery storage, as well as worker training for the modern energy sector — all with the goal of increasing overall energy resilience in Jamaica. Led by the Cadmus Group, the partnership will mobilize up to $50 million in investment funds.

And this new effort plays an important role in responding to current concerns in Jamaica, including the ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d especially like to recognize the efforts of Jamaicans at all levels, who are actively collaborating to ensure this project’s success and a swift return to prosperity after recent disasters.

In addition, I want to commend the government’s release of a 20-year blueprint that includes an expansion of resilient and renewable energy.

And I also want to highlight how multiple layers of Jamaica’s private sector are coming together to provide expertise and financial resources that will make this alliance a success. From small energy firms to one of the largest in the Caribbean, as well as businesses outside the energy sector and a research university, this unifying Global Development Alliance is an exciting feat.

This partnership stands on the shoulders of past U.S. energy investments over several years, and is only possible because of the close coordination between our local staff in Jamaica, our counterparts at the Ministry, and USAID energy experts here in Washington.

When the United States and our Caribbean partners work together, we can have a profoundly positive effect on thousands of lives.

Together, we can expand economic opportunities, increase resilience to disasters, foster self-reliance, and expand energy opportunities. The energy sector is a crucial element of Jamaica’s long-term development and resilience.

And our work in the region reflects what those of us with connections to the Caribbean have always known: that we are and always will be neighbors, partners, and friends.

Thank you all for your commitment and dedication to this pivotal partnership. We look forward to working closely together over the next several years.